This episode reads like a political thriller. A secret splinter group meets in a secluded location — plotting to remove 27 other leaders of their organization. Those targeted for removal FIND OUT about those plans and turn the tables on the original plotters. An episode of House of Cards, perhaps? Drama in a Third World banana republic? Nope. It’s the latest from the Haywood County Republican Party in western North Carolina.
The back-and-forth has made it to the local papers. One local activist lays it all out for us here at the ol’ DH:
“Our Chairperson Pat Carr without the knowledge, consent, or approval,
of the Haywood County Executive board , formed a secret committee of 3
and met in a secret location — not the County GOP headquarters. The purpose of this meeting
was to plan a coup within the Haywood County GOP. This came to light
at our convention last month when a resolution came from the floor by
this committee to remove the 27 Voting Executive Precinct Chair
Volunteers — leaving Pat Carr and the Secretary as the only remaining
voting members who would vote on 3 new additions dropping the total
executive Members from 30 to FIVE.”
The Smoky Mountain News was on the scene:
A takeover of the local party by a faction of conservative ideologues has been brewing for more than a year. The faction has increased its toehold in the party, eventually amassing enough seats on the executive committee to make an end-run for the chair’s seat.
A heated and raucous meeting was held Monday night where the coup faction called for the removal and censure of Pat Carr, the party’s chair.
It’s unclear whether they have the votes within the party to carry through with the plan, however.
So far, the faction has merely called for her removal. An official vote won’t happen for at least two more weeks. It would take a super majority of the executive committee — two-thirds of the roughly 30 members — to formally remove Carr, according to party rules.
The coup faction called for a special meeting of the party’s executive committee this week to present charges against Carr.[…]
The meeting was anything but smooth. It began with a tussle over who would run the meeting. Monroe Miller, a conservative activist who regularly rails against county government and is known for his derogatory email attacks, attempted to lead the meeting.
But Carr insisted she was still the chair of the party, and thus entitled to lead the meeting.
“Mr. Miller, you are a precinct vice chair,” Carr said. “You are not conducting this meeting.”
Miller stood at the podium beside Carr, however, talking over her, calling the meeting to order, trying to take roll and calling on members of the audience to make motions.
Carr kept saying Miller had no authority to take charge of the meeting. But the precinct vice chair remained by the podium, holding a three-ring binder with a handmade cover that had Pat Carr’s name in a circle with a line drawn through it.
The standoff between Miller and Carr for the meeting gavel showed no sign of budging until a man in a suit walked in about 10 minutes late. He seemed somewhat out of place in a roomful of camouflage, ball caps, T-shirts and flannel.
He was quickly peppered with heckling calls of “Who are you?” and “Who sent you?” and “Why are you here?”
He said he had been sent by the state Republican Party to serve as a moderator and to counsel the group on the party’s rules and by-laws, should procedural questions arise.
“It allows me to come in with only the goal of ensuring a fair process,” said Craig Collins, an attorney from Gastonia and party leader in his region of the state.
Collins said Carr was technically still the chair, and until she is removed by a vote of the executive committee, no one else can chair the meeting unless she voluntarily agrees.
“It is out of order for you to stand up and say ‘I want to chair the meeting,’” Collins told Miller. “If your chair is not your chair in an hour, which appears to be what this meeting is about, then you can decide who is going to chair the meeting then.”
But Tomile Cure spoke out from the audience that “in our world,” Carr already wasn’t the chair.
“We are going to remove you,” Cure said.
Miller rationalized that since it was a special called meeting by members of the executive committee, rather than a normal meeting, that the normal rules didn’t apply and so they could make their own rules.
“This is your meeting,” Miller told the audience. “You get to decide who runs your meeting. I suggest I run the meeting.”
But Collins asserted that violating party rules by simply seizing the gavel could make the whole meeting invalid. Eventually, the crowd recanted, not wanting the events that would happen that night to be nullified by a technicality. But Miller wouldn’t sit down and kept making a case to preside.
The group had come to the meeting with an orderly game plan, a pre-determined order of who would make what motion, and in what order, in the call for Carr’s removal.
Miller, during his attempt to run the meeting, called on audience member Eddie Cabe.
“Eddie, go ahead Eddie,” Miller said.
Cabe started to read a motion when someone in the audience hollered “Wrong one!”
“Wait, wait, not yet,” Miller said.[…]
But motions to kick out the media became sidetracked by the bigger quandary of who was going to run the meeting.
A point of order was called to first figure out who could legitimately preside over the meeting, before returning to the media issue. Ten minutes of arguing ensued over which motion to take up first: the one to banish the rest of the media or the motion to settle who would preside over the meeting.
It was technically against party policy to banish registered Republicans from the room.
However, the intention going in, based on a “game plan” for the meeting that was circulated via email by Miller, was to call for Carr’s removal, read the charges against her and schedule a subsequent meeting for an official vote.
Carr had only a couple of supporters in the room — one being her own husband. But that was by design.
“Several have called and asked whether they should attend or just boycott it,” Carr said Monday before the meeting.
In the end, Carr’s supporters boycotted the meeting rather than giving the coup faction an audience.
The real test of Carr’s support — and whether the coup faction can take the reins of the party — will be the official vote over the chair’s removal, which won’t occur for at least two weeks, though a date has not been set.
Carr is one of the last mainstream Republicans who still holds an officer position in the local party. Three of the five officer positions are currently vacant, following a string of resignations from mainstream Republicans who became fed up by the faction. Carr said she isn’t willing to walk away, however.
“I am not a quitter. Once I take on a project I stay with it until the end, and that’s what I told the people that elected me,” Carr explained. “I felt to step down at this point would be even more detrimental.”
Carr maintains all is not lost.
“I think we have some people who are relatively new to politics and parliamentary procedure, and I would like to get them a little more involved and use some of that energy toward constructive ends,” Carr said, when asked what type of resolution she would like to see given the circumstances.
Some hinted that the mainstream Republicans who have run the party in the past aren’t conservative enough, or aren’t true to Republican ideals.
“I want to promote the party platform,” Cure said when asked why she supported a new leadership direction for the party.
As mainstream Republicans are driven out of the party, the faction trying to take control moves in to fill the void, claiming an increasing number of leadership roles on the roughly 30-member executive committee. Each resignation by those who are fed up creates yet another vacancy for the faction to expand its toehold.
The vice chair, treasurer and finance chair have all stepped down, citing the discord or floundering direction of the local party as too unpleasant to endure. Two of the seats were filled, but the replacements ended up stepping down as well.
Carr said it is increasingly difficult to find party members willing to take on leadership roles.
“It has been very challenging. Several folks have said they do not want to be involved while there is this friction in the party,” Carr said.
The rise of the coup faction in the party began more than a year ago with a concerted effort to snatch up precinct chair seats. It wasn’t hard to do, since the election of precinct chairs is determined solely by who shows up.
But that was only half the battle. Precinct chairs historically weren’t voting members on the party’s executive committee. That changed last year, as well, however. A vote was held at the annual convention to make every precinct chair in the county a member of the executive committee instead of just the party officers.
The executive committee grew from five to 30 overnight, making the newly named precinct chairs part of the formal party leadership.
At the time, no one spoke out against the expansion of the executive committee, but the idea wasn’t universally embraced.
“Several said they were not for it and it would be a disaster, but they did not vote against it because they did not want it to appear the party was divided,” Carr said. “Quite a few folks told me they thought the increased executive committee would be a problem. I told them they might be right, but we ought to at least try it for a year to be more inclusive. I thought once people were given the chance to participate it might work.”
Now, however, there is movement within the party to undo that decision. There was an attempt to take power away from precinct chairs, and return to a smaller executive committee, at the party’s annual convention last month.
A motion to remove precinct chairs from the executive committee was made but didn’t pan out as intended. A hue and cry ensued, and the motion was withdrawn.
The coup faction blamed Carr for the attempt to take power away from the precinct chairs. The faction retaliated by calling for Carr’s removal.
Ken Henson, who made a bid for party chairman last year at the annual convention but lost to Carr, said he disagrees with the recent attempt to kick precinct chairs off the executive committee.
“My direction is everybody has a vote,” Henson said, when asked what new direction he wants the party to go in.